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The Ugly

There is a consumer magazine called "Que Choisir" (kay shwa-zeer) which is along the same sort of lines as "Which?". Apparently they did a survey in the summer which showed the Intermarché supermarket to be the better value of the leading brands, and how the others (Super U,, etc) were notably more expensive.
I say "apparently" as our local supermarket did not reprint the article, instead they made a notice referring to it, plus listing the highlights. This notice was stuck to every till.

I would like to offer an alternative opinion, and if anybody from Que Choisir can read English, you might like to consider looking into what I am about to say; for while everybody will screw up prices from time to time, the Intermarché provides a long list of barcode-related arnaques (ar-naks, it's a French word meaning 'con' or 'swindle').

  • Our local "Ecomarché" (like a mini-version) is capitalising from its locality. Large towns with big shops are about ten miles to the north and to the south. In these big shops, the June price of milk was €1,05. Meanwhile, the smaller shop wanted €1,27. Now you could perhaps argue the smaller turnover in milk in the smaller shop; that would be reflected in the smaller number of bottles available. I'm afraid, given it is a national supermarket with an apparently good distribution network (you often see their trucks around, and their slogan is "the musketeers of distribution"!), there is little that will convince me that a 21% markup is justified. It's a small arnaque.
Oh, it gets better...
  • Still in the "Ecomarché", two tins of Cannaillou cat food, the large one, not the huge one. The aisle says €0,93 on a hardwritten ticket. There are two tins. One with a €0,93 sticker on, the other without. When the girl beeps the tin with the sticker, she overrides the price and charges 93 centimes. When she beeps the other one, she lets it go through at the price in the POS "because it doesn't have a price sticker"; I don't remember the price, something like €1,07?
    What's the law on this? Both barcodes were identical and the only visible marking on the aisle quoted the €0,93 price; but the checkout girl insisted that because one had a sticker and the other didn't... Arnaque.
  • There are loads of little barcode related issues at the two Intermarchés near us. I've had to point out special offers. I've had to point out where the POS gave a totally different price (always in their favour, I should mention) to a price actually marked on the product. God alone knows how many times I've caught them out because I have walked around adding up stuff on my PocketBook II, only for their till to give a different (higher) price. The first couple of times you figure you miskeyed something. Then you smell a rat, and when you walk around after with the receipt, you can see ... arnaques in action.
    In fact, when the cat food first arrived with the price marking on the tin, the girl at the checkout refused to put it through at the price written on the tin until her manager had called somebody on the phone. What the hell?!? And the brand has run adverts saying how much better things are now that they actually mark prices on the products...
And for the mother of all A R N A Q U E S, I actually recorded both conversations a 3GP video (crap resolution) on my mobile phone!
  • Saturday 13th December 2008; local Intermarché.
    We bought some stuff. Came to about 70 euros. The checkout girl was a stressy type, was very fast and was practically throwing our purchases at us.
    We got two Cannaillou cat foods, large-not-huge tin. My payment card, a La Banque Postale "Realys" was refused. This is not a surprise, I have experienced the Intermarché card reader machine does nothing for ages, then refuses my card. I had money in my account and I used that exact card to buy something later on. Anyway, I went to the cash machine (about ten metres away) and took out money. Yes, on my refused card. The whole process took less then a minute, by which time checkout girl had stashed our operation and was wanting to process the customer behind, who had a very laden trolley. I paid, we got a ticket. It said "Ticket Reprise" along the top, it mentioned the loyalty card number, and it said that our bonus points were "non disponible".
    Upon checking the receipt that evening to see where the drawing pins went (they were evidently not put through?), I noticed we were charged for Caresse cat food, not Cannaillou. They're both Intermarché made-up brands, but one is 'better' (read: "more expensive").
  • Monday 15th December 2008
    We went back and beeped a wrapper on the price check machine. It reported Caresse and the price €1,71. The picture below shows little, 3GP compression is so over-the-top it is verging on pointless.
    We went to the girl in the reception (acceuil) and it took a suprisingly long time to get her to understand that when she beeped the product, it actually gave the details of a different product. Then the girl admitted that she was just a checkout girl, we'd need to come at the times when somebody with a bit of authority was there...
  • Wednesday 17th December 2008
    We went back, beeped the wrapper again. It came up as Cannaillou (!), priced at €1,71.
    The woman-with-authority showed us the computer. It said €1,71. Well, duh! As if it would have said anything else. We then showed her the huge tin. It was not the same product - the large tin (800g?) was a sort of paste ("terrines") of lamb. The huge tin (1.2kg?) was beef bits in sauce. The 800g tin cost €1,71 and the huge tin cost €1,64. Yes, read that again, it isn't a mistake. Well, not on our part.
    Here's the woman looking at the receipt (right hand) and cat food wrapper (left hand):
    Yes, I was holding the phone sideways. It's called being inconspicuous.
    Here she is trying to justify the disparity with the large tin:
    The magenta is obscuring somebody else waiting for assistance.
    Her excuse, if you can believe it, is that lamb is that much more expensive than beef. This, in cat food made with "4% products and under-products of animals". The actual phrase, in French, is "sous-produits", I hate to think what that actually means.
    So, to recap, there was no backing down or refund "because it's what the computer said"; and a smaller tin can cost more than a bigger tin because it has something different inside. The disparity might be valid if the tins were the same size, but...
    As for the loyalty card, she said and credits will be shown on our next ticket. This, of course, means we'd need to lay hands on a recent ticket to see what/if there is a difference. Oh, and we'll never know what we got points on. It all seems quite random how points are allocated, so it would have been nice to know. It would have been nice to have a checkout girl that wasn't thinking about the next customer before she'd dealt with us, that's kinda rude.
  • For what it is worth, I went over to the Super U. My preferred shop of choice. I like their product range, and the girls are much cuter. Especially one who I wish I had the balls to try asking out. Tant pis, hein?
    Anyway, where were we? Oh yes. I went and found their own brand. The U doesn't invent fake brands, it is proud to display their logo on their own products, and point out that it is their own, in case somehow you missed that.
    Terrines, small one-cat (400g?) size. On the left without a price, bunny wabbit. In the middle, trout and salmon. On the right, lamb. And what do you notice? The two prices you can see (and the one you can't) is €0,63. The in-sauce version is slightly cheaper, but nothing like the Intermarché's disparity. This is a difference in price due to it being a different type of product. In sauce, they can add water. The terrines are quite firm, maybe they need corn starch or something? That could be a valid explanation of a slight difference in price. But as for one meat being more expensive than another...? Not here!
Well, it has decided it for me. I will shop in our local Ecomarché if we are in the small town, basically due to lack of choice. However in any town where there is a choice, I simply will not go into an Intermarché. Years and years of crap with incorrect pricing and I've (finally!) had enough.


The Bad

Here's a scan from TeleSatellite magazine, issue 229 (December 2008), page 10:
I won't translate. The essence is they've sold out and been sucked into the CanalPlus empire.
And this, my friends, is a very bad thing for French pop culture. Why? I'll tell you. Wanna know what the Germans think is the in thing? Viva (19.2°E).
Wanna know what the Russians think is the in thing? There's a Russian music channel on Hotbird (13°E). There's a bunch of Italian music channels too.
Wanna know what Brits and the Irish are loving this month? My God, of the more mainstream channels there is Chart Show TV, The Vault, Bubble Hits, Bubble Hits Ireland, plus more themed channels such as Scuzz, Flava, oMusic, and literally dozens of Indian (or environs) stations.

But me? I live in France. I'd kinda like to see what Sofia Essaïdi does next. Um... Um...

Why on earth did Chirac start up France24? There's already CNN and SkyNews on pretty much every satellite going. Why make more news, and the French being somewhat nationalistic, why make it in English?
The solution is simple. CNN, despite their advertising otherwise, has a bias. A rather strong pro-American bias. SkyNews is a product of the Murdoch stable. Both will report the news, but both may report it in a way contrary to how others see the events. This, essentially, is why Al Jazeera was started. To provide an Arab counter-argument to pro-American news feeds. And as such other little channels have popped up. You'll find Russia Today around, but you might have very easily missed it. And, to that end, you'll also find France24 which provides a French viewpoint in the English language (28.2°E); or French and English separately (19.2°E); or (IIRC) French/English/Arabic separately (13°E).

Why am I going on about news when bemoaning the loss of a music channel? Because it is a way that a country can make itself heard. I bet, should the Lady Diana inquest ever be revived over here (as opposed to the British so-called inquest), they would report facts somewhat differently to the Beeb. Because the French have a different opinion. One that probably runs along the lines of "don't pin it all on a 'drunk' Frenchie".
And, as for music, the musical output of a country can tell you a lot about the way people are thinking. Punk was big in the early 70s when everybody hated the government and each other and times were hard. It was a big middle-finger to the establishment. This isn't to say that the French are into punk right now, they aren't, but the things they are into can tell you a lot - much of which seems to involve water and/or getting wet, though while Jenifer may try ("Si C'Est Une Ile"), I think it will take a lot to top Alizée's "J'En Ai Marre".
As a foreigner, especially given the techincal issues relating to broadcast television and the lack of free-to-air digital terrestrial channels (France3, TF1, etc); it is also a way into the French culture. A few idle hours with NRJ Hits and a copy of Public once in a while, you won't seem like a total loser if somebody mentions "Gregoire" as you can say "the one that is having the song Toi-Plus-Moi flogged to death by overplay, or the dead one?" (that was actually Gregorie, not Gregoire, but you can be forgiven little mix-ups like that).

So, France, how about it? It seems very strange to me to have a country that has so much pride in itself as France does, plus Sarko's wish to keep France with a certain degree of Frenchness, yet you aren't extolling what it means to be French? Where's the music? Where's the programming? Where's the facumentary travel shorts? You know where I get most of my French programming? A Swiss channel - TV5! Oh, and subtitled films on FilmFour. Really, France, you oughta put yourself out there. Be seen. Be heard.
I bet I'm not to only non-Frenchie who likes France that is lamenting the loss of what appears to have been France's only free-to-air music channel.


The Good

There are loads of Asian channels on the Sky platform. Now if you asked me to name countries in Asia, I'd say China, Taiwan, Japan... it would take quite a while before I get to India. I don't know, India to me is India, while Asia is more Pacific-Rim countries. I know technically Asia starts a stone's throw into Turkey, which isn't so far away really. But all those countries around there? We are stuck in a messy conflict in Iraq which is "the Middle East" because "Asia" just doesn't seem right. Well, to me it is the same for India, Bangladesh, Pakistan... they aren't Asia, they are... mmmm... weren't they called "The Orient" in old Colonial times?
Anyway, the point is, Asia as I see it has always been poorly represented. There's CCTV9 and PCNE for China. And, well, that's it.

Until now.

Now, finally, Japan is represented in the west by NHK World on the older Astras at 19.2°E. Tuning details: 11508 V 22000; V0714 A0734 P0714

Well, now I have something to place into my favourites list in place of NRJ Hits.


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